Skills and Stimulus in Europe

As a former newspaper reporter myself, I like to think I have an eye for what goes on a newspaper story, particularly a really good one like the one this morning in the Times on Europe’s contrasting approach to a stagnant economy.

The reporter obviously knows a lot and has done a lot of work. Less obviously, he has a strong point of view, probably gained from all that work. He weaves it into the story without being too obvious about it. The subtext of this story is the reporter practically screaming,”Jees, these guys system is working a lot better and with more subtlety than ours.”

This point of view comes out a bit more obviously in paragraphs like this:

The Future Of Menial Jobs

From THE BOSTON GLOBE
Monday, July 10, 2000
BY ALEX MARSHALL

PARIS — If you’re hankering to watch a movie after midnight here, you don’t search for an all-night video store. You walk down the street to the nearest Cinebank, a machine carved into a wall that, similar to an automatic teller machine, dispenses movies instead of cash.

Slip in your credit card, scroll through some movie titles, press a button, and presto: out from a slot emerges the latest Depardieu, Schwarzenegger or Julie Roberts flic.

Such machines haven’t hit the United States yet. And with our low labor costs, they may never. In this country, it may always be cheaper to pay someone to man a late-night video store, rather than pay to set up the machine and develop the technology that makes it possible.

In Paris, The Wine Bar Is The Place To Drink Some Wine

FOR: PORT FOLIO MAGAZINE
BY ALEX MARSHALL

PARIS — It was with some trepidation that I first walked in off the sidewalk into the small establishment on the narrow Rue Daguerre near Montparnasse with the words “Bar A Vin” written across its front glass window. It was 11 p.m. on a Wednesday night, a strange hour. In Paris, it was neither late, nor early. An uncertain hour.

I had been headed home to my nearby hotel bed, having eaten a full dinner down the street and decided I needed a good nigh’s sleep. But I couldn’t resist the pull of this small restaurant. Inside, I could see people huddled around the small bar, talking and laughing while they swirled liquid in glass goblets.

In Paris, Hubris and Humility. Both Have Their Merits

When it comes to urban design, the French have a unique ability to use heavy-handed state authority to produce systems that are technologically and aesthetically advanced. When successful, their state-trained engineers and civil servants produce stunning urban systems, like the TGV high-speed train network, that combine high technology, artistic elegance and coordinated efficiency. This can be seen not only in the TGV system, which has helped keep Paris a center of Europe and thus economically vital, but also in the country’s state-run nuclear power system, and its phone and electrical systems. Even the arching brick tunnels of the city’s 19th century sewer system are elegant.

A New City Rises From Berlin’s No-Man’s Land

By Alex Marshall and Sally Young
Globe Correspondents
11/5/2000

BERLIN – The guard tower and wooden sign over the street warning ”You Are Now Leaving The American Sector!” were still there, as was the narrow bridge over a ravine, where prisoners, dissidents, and spies were exchanged. But beyond these carefully preserved memorials to another time and era, it was difficult to distinguish the famous Checkpoint Charlie from any other intersection in this bustling city. Now, what was once a bleak no-man’s land has been recarved into streets and blocks. And on these streets, new buildings have risen up, many of them designed by the best, or at least the most famous, architects on the planet. Within a two-block radius of Checkpoint Charlie, Aldo Rossi, Philip Johnson, Rem Koolhaas, and Peter Eisenman have all tried their hand. Widen that circle further, and you encounter buildings by Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Rafael Moneo, and Richard Rogers. We had traveled to the new Berlin to see this new city being remade, the choices its leaders faced, the ones they made correctly, the ones that might be regretted in future years. We were the Loeb Fellowship, all 13 of us, from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Eurosprawl

METROPOLIS MAGAZINE
JANUARY/FEBRUARY ISSUE, 1995
BY ALEX MARSHALL

[Editor’s note: This version of the article “Eurosprawl” is slightly different than what ran in Metropolis Magazine in January 1995.]

The cheese selection was enormous. Giant wheels of Gruyere, tiny pucks of Chevre and every other sized cheese in between were stacked on refrigerated shelves that ran half the width of the store. The wine, separated by region of course, took up one-and-a-half aisles. This nod to French cuisine in this discount supermarket the size of a football field was one of the few indications you were in Lyon, France, and not say, Connecticut.